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Matriarch Ruth Wilson has enjoyed her many years of affiliation with Belle Meade Fox Hunt

She was a Yankee attending the University of Georgia.

He was a son of the South, taking classes at the Athens campus too.

They met on a blind date, and four sons and more than 60 years later, Ruth Wilson still sparkles as she talks about her husband, James E. Wilson, Jr.

She recalled having met the tall, handsome man that someday would become her husband after some sorority sisters convinced her to go out with him on a blind date. The setting was 1942 - her senior year. The couple later fell in love and in November of that same year, married.

"Back then I was a Yankee, but I'm a full Southerner now," said Mrs. Wilson, who grew up in Long Island, N.Y.

The couple settled in Thomson and over the next few years, they had their children, Gordon, Jim, Glenn and Epp. Through the years, Mrs. Wilson's husband started several businesses, many of which are still carried on today by family members.

But beyond his family, it is the regular gatherings of fox hunting enthusiasts known as the Belle Meade Hunt that is part of the Wilson legacy.

For Mrs. Wilson, who joined family members in kicking off the 43rd annual hunt season last weekend, Hunt season provided her an opportunity to shine. Epp said his mother served as the "classy lady" of the Belle Meade Fox Hunt through the years. In years past, Mrs. Wilson was known to don elegant gowns while attending big hunt dance balls.

"Mother has welcomed a lot of visitors to Thomson and McDuffie County through the years that the Belle Meade Fox Hunt has existed," said Epp. "She has made each of them feel welcomed and been a real representative of our community."

As an ambassador-like representative to the Belle Meade Fox Hunt, Mrs. Wilson has welcomed guests from as far away as France, Germany and Switzerland. She also has prepared dozens and dozens of meals at her home through the years for guests. One of her guests' favorites is her baked beans, which she tops off with bacon.

Mrs. Wilson's husband was one of the founding members of the Belle Meade Hunt in 1966. She said the event was a natural outcropping of one of the family's favorite pastimes.

"We used to ride horses for pleasure and enjoyed that time together," said Mrs. Wilson.

But it was William Preston Smith, an inspector with the FmHA, who infected James Wilson with the fox hunting bug, Mrs. Wilson said.

"He got James interested in fox hunting," said Mrs. Wilson.

The elder Mr. Wilson immediately wanted to start his own local fox hunt. He involved several of his closest friends, including Pete Knox, a co-founder of the Belle Meade Fox Hunt.

Mrs. Wilson remembers her husband being so proud of what he and Mr. Knox had begun.

"They came up with the name Belle Meade, which means Beautiful Meadow," said Mrs. Wilson.

Since the inception of the Belle Meade Fox Hunt, nothing has ever stopped the opening ceremonies or the hunt season.

Not even heavy rains, which came during the 12th annual event.

"It poured buckets of rain the day before and the day of the opening ceremonies that year," said Mrs. Wilson. "But they rode anyway. Nothing, including sleet and snow, could stop them from having the blessing of the hounds and the hunt ride."

That year, the blessing of the hounds took place at Mr. Knox's Seymour Farms' barn.

"It was miserable and it didn't get any better," added Mrs. Wilson, an exceptional artist who has produced many fine fox paintings through the years.

"Mother has turned out some magnificent paintings," said Epp. "She used to paint a lot, but arthritis prevents her from doing it as much today."

Still, she makes sure she's in the field on the first Saturday of November to carry on her family's legacy and to honor her husband, who passed away in 2002.

"I've enjoyed the hunts so much through the years, because they meant so much to James," said Mrs. Wilson.

Web posted on Thursday, November 06, 2008

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